4

Reading "Vivir para contarla" de Gabriel García Márquez, I have stumbled upon a strange expression:

Me he quedado más solo que la mano izquierda en la ciudad desocupada.

My question is: what is the origin and actual sense of this expression? I could not find the exact phrase on the web, so it is unlikely to be an idiom. My guesses are:

  • maybe there are other idioms from which this sentence have been derived?
  • if not, does the word izquierda have any meaning of solitude or uniqueness?
  • probably this is a reference to some work or expression well-known in Latin American culture?
3
  • I can think of a lot of different cultural readings any of which he may have wanted (the left hand is symbolic for a number of different things — for example, dirtiness and evil), in addition to rarer meanings like twisted, and I can even see some innuendo readings. Can you give a bit more context? Does he mention "la ciudad desocupada" as a particular place in his book? Apr 21 '15 at 0:25
  • Me ha recordado al dicho "más feo que el pie de otro"
    – rpax
    Apr 21 '15 at 21:25
  • Creo que más que nada el significado de esa frase es por que la mayor parte del tiempo no usamos la mano izquierda, a menos que seas zurdo.
    – Marisol
    Apr 24 '15 at 21:18
6

Despite requesting confirmation in the comments, I think I have it figured out. The RAE notes in its entry for izquierda a reference to an expression matrimonio de la mano izquierda in another entry which is as follows:

matrimonio. ~ de la mano izquierda
1. (Porque en la ceremonia nupcial el esposo daba a la esposa la mano izquierda). m. El contraído entre un príncipe y una mujer de linaje inferior, o viceversa, en el cual cada cónyuge conservaba su condición anterior

This is what's known more commonly in English as a morganatic marriage (but also occasionally called a left-handed marriage as well). Basically, a prince would marry, say, a commoner, and she would not rise to the state of being a princess and she would remain a commoner. All of her children would likewise be commoners despite their noble lineage. In other words, despite being accepted, she (and they) would still being completely left out of all things familial — rather alone.

6

According to an article from the Revista Virtual Universidad Católica del Norte, dedicated to the use of idioms in García Márquez's works, this is related to what the Bible says: that, on Judgment Day, God will put holy men by his right hand. Therefore, the left hand is the place for those who are abandoned by God for eternity.

This is not a usual idiom; it was made up by García Márquez, who was quite adept at doing so.

3
  • 1
    Great find. I thought about a similar interpretation, but that person probably has far better contextual knowledge than I. (Probably not bad too mention the number/issue of the article in your answer) Apr 21 '15 at 13:33
  • @guifa I could not find the link online, but now I have done it. Added to the answer.
    – Gorpik
    Apr 21 '15 at 14:20
  • Yes, it was made up by GM. I've never heard anyone in Colombia use it.
    – DGaleano
    Aug 23 '17 at 13:58
1

In my opinion, this is just a joke.

Given all the connotations that drags the poor left hand (it is clumsy and lazy), and considering cultural weight of the left side (bad luck, condemnation), it is easy to think that nobody loves it and not have friends.

In my country Chile the phrase "Estár más solo que..." is widely used, with different endings:

Está más solo que Pinochet en el día del amigo.

Está más solo que el uno.

The most used is absurd, but everyone understands:

Está más solo que un dedo.

1
  • Clumsy and lazy only for some people, sorry. By phrases like this one can go to the stake :)
    – Rodrigo
    Apr 21 '15 at 14:41
1

In Spanish, anything positioned by left hand can be referenced by the word siniestra, which also is an adjective to an evil event or person, very similar to English definition of sinister. This From RAE:

Siniestro, tra. (Del lat. sinister, -tri).

  1. adj. Dicho de una parte o de un sitio: Que está a la mano izquierda.

  2. adj. Avieso y malintencionado.

  3. adj. Infeliz, funesto o aciago. [...]

It might be possible that García Márquez was making an indirect reference, a word game with the siniestra word in the aforementioned phrase.

EDIT

The relation with izquierda-siniestra has fallen into disuse, being considered a cult word, used in supra-formal. It can see in idiom A diestra y siniestra, referent to Con la derecha y la izquierda, synonym of Sin ton ni son; or A la siniestra del padre, in a religious context, refers to the position occupied by the Holy Spirit.

An example from the Cantar del Mio Cid (2):

Al salir de Vivar, tuvieron la corneja diestra,

y entrando en Burgos, tuviéronla siniestra.

In spanish medieval:

A la exida de Bivar ovieron la corneja diestra

y entrando a Burgos ovieron la siniestra.

In this passage you can see relationship between a favorable prediction (birds flying to the right) while the birds flying on the left were considered a bad omen.

So:

  • I don't know any idiom directly derived from this phrase of García Márquez. But the phrase itself derive from a well-know idiom: Más solo que..., a phrase terminating in an exaggeration, like Más solo que loco malo
  • No, the word izquierda don't have, accord to RAE, any meaning with solitude or uniqueness.
  • I see a union between the loneliness of sinister sites and left hand, using a synonym. I don't know the dialects in all the countries of Latin America, but in some (Chile, Argentina) I can ensure the uso de Más solo que... idiom.

PD: By the way, consider that the left hand and the right hand are alone, separated by a body.

2
  • Welcome to the site. I have to say that as a native speaker I would never say "Siéntate a mi siniestra" or "Se te acerca un coche por la siniestra". Also, I understand the relation "izquierda" with "siniestra" and this one with "evil", but the original question is about "mano izquierda" and loneliness. Maybe you could explain further that "indirect reference, a word game"?
    – Diego
    Apr 23 '15 at 19:16
  • @Diego Thanks you for the welcome. I'm a native speaker too. I've edit the answer for more information. Apr 23 '15 at 20:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.